My first year at college has been kind of rough. I’ve had fun here, but things got really bad back at home. My parents are finalizing a divorce, and there’s a lot of drama over the house I grew up in. My mother wants to keep it (and so do I), but my father is not being helpful, and nobody is sure that it makes sense to pay for all the heating and cooling and upkeep (it’s a big old house, and pretty drafty). And all of this is distracting me at school, as you can probably guess.

I’m trying to be as helpful as I can, but I’m obviously pretty busy here. Everything seems so messy right now. Experts, can you tell me anything that might help me out in this situation?

We’re so sorry to hear that things are rough at home. While divorce can sometimes be the best option for all involved, it’s always a traumatic experience. And changing relationships can force other changes in circumstances, as you’re discovering now. It’s natural for you to want to do something to help your mother keep your childhood home.

But you’re not the person who can do that, we’re afraid. This is a matter for an attorney, explain expert family law attorneys. And if your parents have already signed the divorce paperwork, changing things may not be easy — though only a lawyer can tell you for sure, and we’re not able to offer you any legal advice. Your mother’s best bet may be to sit down with a family law attorney and ask what options she might have for keeping the home while living comfortably and maintaining it.

Some of the costs you described could possibly be cut down. With the help of contractors and HVAC experts, your mother may be able to upgrade the home’s systems to eliminate drafts. And don’t forget the attic insulation — American homes waste a lot of energy, and a huge portion of that waste gets out through the attic. Depending on the specifics of your mother’s situation, she may be able to save money in the long run by making a few key upgrades now.

Also remember that this entire situation is not at all your fault. Of course, it’s completely natural for you to be upset by everything that’s going on even if you fully understand that this situation is no fault of yours. Still, make sure you keep the proper perspective — and consider being proactive about caring for your mental health as you process all of this. Times like these offer great reasons to speak with a counselor or a therapist. Perhaps a psychologist can help you deal with these developments in a healthier way. Again, it’s natural to feel some grief and stress right now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it. You say that you’re having trouble concentrating in school, and that’s not good. This is an important time for you, and you deserve to be able to focus when you need to.

You also may want to speak to your professors. You may or may not need to ask them for special consideration during this time — extensions on assignments, for instance — but, even if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to let your instructors know that you’re dealing with something. It may help them understand your attitude or performance in class, which could be suffering even without your realizing it.

This is a tough time, and it’s hard to say what the immediate future will hold for your home life. But we can tell you that this, too, will pass, and that the trauma and stress that feel so fresh now will not always feel that way. We wish you and your family all the best.

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